BOSTON — Claude Julien had no choice.
The Bruins coach was forced to juggle his defense when Andrew Ference was suspended.
Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle could have kept things the same, but that wouldn’t have been wise.
Not after Boston dominated Toronto 4-1 in the first game of their series.
Not after his players were outshot 40-20.
And certainly not after they kept committing turnovers and having trouble getting the puck out of their zone.
“We’ll have some changes,” Carlyle said after practice on Friday for Game 2 tonight. “What we’ve tried to do is just try to up the tempo of moving the puck.”
Did that message at practice get through?
“Of course, I think it’s gotten through,” he said, “but the results are what’s going to determine whether it has or hasn’t.”
The loss of Ference, a 13-year veteran and part of Boston’s second defensive pairing, is a setback.
The NHL suspended him for one game for elbowing Mikhail Grabovski in the head near the boards midway through the first period Wednesday night.
One possible replacement is Dougie Hamilton, who has had a strong rookie season but was a healthy scratch for the last three regular-season games and the first playoff game. He was drafted in the first round in 2011 with a pick acquired when the Bruins traded Phil Kessel to the Maple Leafs in September 2009.
“I grew up watching the playoffs and dreaming about playing in the playoffs,” Hamilton said. “Hopefully, I can bring some intensity.”
Ference didn’t think his absence would be costly.
“Guys will step right in and it’ll be no problem,” he said. “Whether it’s an injury or something like this, guys step up and do the job.”
During practice on Friday, Julien broke up his top pairing of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg. Chara skated with Adam McQuaid, Seidenberg was with Johnny Boychuk, and Hamilton was paired with Wade Redden, who had a goal and an assist Wednesday night.
Julien wouldn’t say he’d use that setup tonight or even that Hamilton would play.
“He might be a young player for the playoffs, but to me at this stage and the amount of games he’s played, he’s a veteran,” Julien said. “We don’t look at guys necessarily as rookies. We look at them as young players. But he’s a young player that’s probably going to be playing his first game, if not tomorrow, soon.”
Carlyle wasn’t relying on Boston’s loss of a key defenseman to solve his team’s problems, not when the Bruins have capable players to fill Ference’s role.
“They’re going to be looking for those guys to make it a seamless transition,” Carlyle said. “Obviously, Ference plays a lot of minutes. He’s one of their leaders. Again, it’s a team game. It’s not one individual that can win or lose a hockey game.”
For the Maple Leafs, it was a team performance that lost in the club’s first postseason game since 2004. After James van Riemsdyk put them ahead 1-0 on a power play 1:54 into the game, they had few solid chances.
The problems began in their defensive zone.
“The main thing for us is just being a little calmer in our own end and making better plays in getting it out,” forward Tyler Bozak said.
Defenseman Mike Kostka broke a finger in the game and is expected to be sidelined on Saturday. Jake Gardiner could fill that vacancy.
But Toronto’s defense also has to worry about stopping four lines that all played well in the opener after some inconsistency late in the regular season.
“That’s the way we do it,” said right wing Nathan Horton, who scored the go-ahead goal with 12 seconds left in the first period of the opener.
“Claude, he plays four lines. Everybody plays and whether you play a little bit less, for the most part everybody plays. I think that’s why we’re such a good team and guys can get a break and they can really work hard during their shift.”
Boston led 2-1 after one period and David Krejci and Boychuk scored in the second against James Reimer. The goalie, like 14 of his teammates, was making his playoff debut.
The Maple Leafs are “a pretty inexperienced group,” Bozak said. “There might have been a few nerves there.”
The Bruins, with 17 players from the team that won the Stanley Cup two years ago, were much more poised.
“It doesn’t matter to me what the Leafs do. What matters to me is what we do,” Julien said. “That’s what I plan on doing, keeping the focus on our team.”MORE IN Sports WireCHICAGO — The music starts and fans clap in unison as Starlin Castro walks to the plate. Full StoryORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Yellow flags have become a red flag for Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills. Full Story
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